Caldey Island Priory

Ghosts have been seen and heard near Caldey Island Priory.

Dom Aelred Carlyle, who built the magnificent monastery there between 1910 and 1913, reported having seen a black-habited monk in the lane nearby on many occasions, while other srories concerned a mysterious white lady seen near the island Steward’s House, Ty Gwyn.

As for hearing ghostly sounds, there were several stories about nocturnal noises of shovels digging deep into the sand and shingle of the beach, which were thought to be Paul Jones the Pirate burying his treasure there, as legend suggests he did.

The notorious brigand was certainly active in Pembrokeshire waters and bombarded Fishguard on one occasion when thwarted in a bid for booty. Paul Jones Bay at the north-eastern end of the island commemorates the piratical doings of that rascally brigand.

One person who reported hearing these sounds was Miss Renee Haynes of the Society for Psychical Research, who visited the island in the 1920s, as Dom Aelred Carlyle was very interested in such matters, as had been a previous owner of the island, Done Bushell, who was one of the early members of the Society.

Miss Haynes spoke of the eerie incident which happened when dusk was falling. She wrote: “I’d gone on to the terrace to enjoy the last embers of sunset, the lights beginning to twinkle in Tenby on the mainland, and the silence almost unimaginable today - no wireless, no telly, no night-flying planes, only the mild splash of the ebb-tide below, and gentle voices chatting in the house. The monastery was dark, there were no lights in the village, and no-one could have seen to dig. Then I heard quite clearly the sound of iron spades digging down through sand and pebbles and occasionally striking rock. I was puzzled as to what it could be, but did not at first think of the legend - and when it came to my mind, oddly enough I wasn’t scared.”

Arthur Gay the gardener also reported seeing the black monk, who walked through a wall where there had once been a door.

The medieval priory was built on the site of an earlier chapel and there is an Ogham stone telling of the earlier settlement. The Priory and its church are dedicated to Saint Samson, the 6th century monk who is said to have first settled on Caldey. In 1919 a small part of the Saint’s relics was sent to Caldey to be kept and treasured there. The Priory was a building of some substance, its loophole stairways and battlemented towers showing that it was clearly built for defence. Defence, no doubt, against pirates and those ultimate pirates the Norsemen, who left a legacy of Viking names around these coasts, including Cold-island or Caldey.

Near the Priory is a freshwater spring and also a pond where it is thought the earlier monks created a vivarium stocked with fish.

Relics of an old corn mill, including large millstones, also survive.

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